Dr. Cheroutre's proposal focuses on pinpointing specific molecular and genetic events that, she believes, could lay at the basis of susceptibility to autoimmunity. She also will work toward developing innovative treatment, and even more far-reaching approaches, that might prevent autoimmunity in those susceptible individuals. Autoimmunity occurs when the body's white blood cells mistakenly attack normal cells. This leads to a host of disorders such as type 1 diabetes, multiple sclerosis and rheumatoid arthritis. "Normally, the immune system provides us protection against pathogens and the generation of transformed cancer cells," said Dr. Cheroutre. "But in autoimmunity, the immune system does not seem to be able to distinguish bad from good cells. It's like the body gets caught in friendly fire. It can cause incredible self-destruction."
If Dr. Cheroutre's premise is correct -- and she proves that certain cellular defects underlie autoimmunity -- it could allow for early detection of those individuals at high risk. "If true, it would enable us to detect at birth whether an individual is genetically prone to autoimmunity."
The second part of her groundbreaking proposal would then come into play through the development of new therapies that could potentially prevent autoimmunity in those people identified as highly susceptible. Theoretically, similar treatments could also be used for those who have already developed autoimmunity.
"If successful, an individual c
|Contact: Bonnie Ward|
La Jolla Institute for Allergy and Immunology